COVID – 19 latest cluster: Civil Society appeals for better Govt response

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 23 2020

Individuals and organisations representing Civil Society, in a statement on the Government’s response to and management of the latest COVID-19 cluster, appealed for better response to the needs of the people.  If they do not change course immediately it is evident there is ineffectiveness, inadequacy and inhumanness in the current response devastating especially under-privileged sections of society.  

This crisis must be handled through collective and sustained efforts, with attention paid to human dignity, equal treatment and the multiple requirements of vulnerable communities. The efforts must focus on consistent and continued prevention of the spread, treatment, and addressing economic challenges, vulnerable communities experience at present.

“We are deeply disappointed with the overall response of the Government to the recent outbreak of centred on the Brandix factory in Minuwangoda. The vulnerable factory workers have been treated with contempt and a lack of dignity. On the night of the 11 October and early 12th morning, workers were rounded up and taken to the quarantine centres without any explanation, with their medical conditions being spoken publicly. The Media as well as Government spokesmen reporting on the pandemic regularly stigmatising factory workers as threats, paying little or no regard to their privacy: While other staff members, at different levels within the same corporate being treated very differently. 

As reported by the company itself, staff members returning from India were quarantined in well-equipped hotels and while being allowed to self-quarantine. This is in contrast to factory workers from Brandix and other factories, currently being quarantined. Brandix has been extremely evasive with details of what exactly happened at the Minuwangoda factory to ensure the health and safety of all of its employees and not just a privileged few. We believe that Brandix could not get away being evasive without the support from the highest levels of the Government. 

The Government must recognise that the discriminatory practices it is adopting with regard to managing the pandemic, is ultimately putting all people at risk. It is essential that the Government be more transparent and accountable with their management of the pandemic. The Virus is not an enemy to be conquered using a military strategy. It is a humanitarian crisis and now urgently requires a response that brings together all the different sectors to react to the many dimensions of this crisis. It must be informative, managed and lead by medical health professionals and the available sciences, when responding to COVID-19, rather than political expediency”. 

The signatories to the statement, made the following recommendations: constant vigilance and careful planning by professionals and experts are required; increase PCR testing outside of existing and identified clusters, and expedite the release of test results; the implementation of restrictions should not lead to the blatant discrimination of specific communities and individuals, especially those marginalised, under-privileged and vulnerable communities; since quarantine sites are currently over-crowded, poorly serviced and not conducive to preventing the spared of the Virus, it would be far better to self-quarantine contacts and those who test positive under the strict monitoring of local health personnel; only those who require treatment should be hospitalised; essential service personnel, such as those in the health sector, transport, food and distributors of medicine and law-enforcement must be provided with PCR equipment, special transport arrangements, and if required lodging and food, and special allowances; recognise the extreme vulnerability of factory workers, especially in the Free Trade Zones, and make appropriate accommodations (specific interventions to protect workers including out-sourced workers) which includes employers being held responsible for their living arrangements, along with safe measures for transport, lodging, purchase of essential goods and support their families with provisions and quality standard medical services and leave, and in the event they contract COVID-19, proper medical care, medical insurance and paid leave, linking workers to local health and social services (registered with the relevant Grama Niladhari); and address shortages of essential drugs being reported even in some of the key hospitals causing serious problems for patients living with non-communicable diseases.  

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 23 2020

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